By M.E. H. Lewis
Directed by Meghan Beals McCarthy
At Chicago Dramatists Theatre, Chicago
The Playwrights’ Theatre is at it again!
Chicago Dramatists resident playwright, M. E. H. Lewis, has penned a thought provoking drama dealing with the meanings and emotional effects of deeply buried memories that haunt many. The work demonstrates both side of the effects of memories to both traumatize and recall past events. Dr. Jane Smith has pioneered a controversial new treatment for traumatic memory disorder. This experiential procedure will “edit” memories thus eliminating those memories that cause debilitating pain.
In her first clinical trials, Jane (Kristen D’Aurelio), due to seeking military funding needs, takes on a female soldier, AJ (Kelly O’ Sullivan) who suffers from painful memories from life-threatening incidents during the Iraq War. Much of the play centers on Jane getting AJ to explain her traumatic events that AJ staunchly resists.
Jane’s ultimate plan is for her new memory altering technique to help her mother, Clothilde (Ann Whitney) erase her haunting memories from her childhood in Dresden during WWII as she daily recalls the 1945 Dresden firestorm from Allied bombings. She sees the burned bodies from bombing. Clothilde is also recalling secrets that still caused guilt after 60 years.
As the play unfolds, we witness AJ and mother’s source of pain as being more from the lies and secrets they hold than from the actual vivid memories of their traumatic events. The work deals with the potential harm that erasing or editing memories can have on an individual and the consequences of lost memories on history and the truth. There is a moral and ethical contradiction when dealing with personal memory that Lewis effectively and dramatically presents.
Freshly Fallen Snow deftly deals with an exploration as to how memories shape us and gives value to the stories we tell the world despite the tricks memory can play to distort through lies and rationalizations. Kelly O’ Sullivan, as AJ, gradually tells what actually happened to her in Iraq as well as Ann Whitney’s haunting recollections of her childhood memories that contained found memories as well as nightmarish memories.
O’ Sullivan plays the butch soldier struggling to be a soldier in a man’s army quite naturally while Ann Whitney, sporting a slight German accent, exudes deeply haunting memories with a child-like sparkle that sent shivers down by back. These two performances anchored the well cast production. Playwright Lewis puts a human face on the contradictions facing scientists as they treat emotional scares from memories. This is a cautionary tale that resonates today as actual scientific research on editing memories is taking place. Society must decide the ultimate value of such science since editing memory can also edit what it means to be human. Freshly Fallen Snow is a tightly drawn world premiere that deserves an audience.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: September 28, 2012
For more info checkout the Freshly Fallen Snow age at theatreinchicago.com
At Chicago Dramatists , 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL, call 312-633-0630, www.chicagodramatists.org, tickets $32, $15 for all Thursday performances, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through October 28, 2012